Friday, June 27, 2014

In the studio: A little scroll work

Sometimes the space where I keep all my tools is my shop, like when I'm fixing busted washing machines or building furniture, but other times, when I'm feeling a little more artsy-fartsy, it's my studio. That's what it was the past couple days, my studio.

I had an idea peculating in my head for a while, as ideas tend to do, (Yes Dad! Sometimes I do use my head for more than holding my hat up!!!) and yesterday I pulled the scroll saw out from deep in the back corner of a high shelf.

Now I haven't used the scroll-saw in - well - forever, and the first order of business, before I could get down to the artsy parts, was to find my stash of scroll-saw blades. You know, those teeny tiny little things that break just from being looked at crossways.

Well I tore the shop studio apart, checking all the sensible places you would expect scroll-saw blades to be hiding, then I tore it apart some more, checking all the not so sensible places. And I never did find those dang things! (And why do we always say 'I found [insert your lost item here] in the last place I looked.'? It would be pretty dumb if we found it somewhere other than the last place we looked, don't you think??)

So there I was, with an idea in my head ready to go, a scroll-saw with my one and only blade mounted in it, and the nearest possible source of additional blades at least a 60 mile round trip away.

I don't know about you but when I've got an idea ready to go it's best to get the dang thing out of my head like right now, otherwise I'm likely to loose it somewhere there deep inside the grey-matter, so I went to work anyway, knowing full well that I was going to break the blade at some point and that would be that.

Well somehow I made it through the entire project on that one single blade! Maybe my skill level has improved since the last time I used the saw, back when all I had to do was lay some wood on the saw's platform, still inches away from the blade, and it would break on me; but I don't know how that's possible unless I've been sleep-scrolling.

Anyway, whatever it was, skill (Unlikely), luck (Damn! I should have bought a lottery ticket instead) or karma (I did live-trap a field mouse in the barn and release it to the wilds on the other side of the pond the other week.), I managed to get all the pieces for the project cut out on that one lone blade.

It looks a lot like a pile of scrap in this photo, like maybe I did bust the blade and just don't know it yet

but after picking through the pieces, sanding some of them thinner to add a 3D element to the composition, and putting them where they belong, the project starts to take shape.

But what kind of shape? This was OK, but it wasn't really popping for me

so, emboldened by my unprecedented success to this point, I decided to push my luck and add another element, which meant going back to the drawing board, and then the saw.

The grain was kept vertical for the body portion and slightly angled for the hair, but here on the skirt section I was careful to lay the grain horizontal to enhance the flying quality of the twirling skirt.

After piecing everything together once again with the new elements and looking at it with a critical eye rather than the eye of the guy who just spent so much time and effort on all the parts, I decided that the composition was better if I removed her left arm. The surgery was painless for her, not so much for me. . .

After a little more '3D' sanding I put about a dozen drops of a red dye into a little water and let the skirt parts soak for a while.

While that, and the follow-up drying was happening I turned my attention to the background.

Cutting a piece of 9-ply half inch birch plywood to size, I sanded and stained it on all 6 sides.

 I didn't want the background to be lifeless and flat, but I didn't want the grain to compete with the subject either so, instead of paint, I used a heavy application of dark walnut stain which left some subtle movement in the background to give it life but not so much it draws attention from the main subject.

A session of careful layout, followed by even more carefully done piece-by-piece gluing, then three coats of a satin polly, and I finished up the project. I like to use water-based polly in cases like this where tough protection is not the key goal because the water based stays crystal clear and doesn't take on an amber tint like the oil based polly will.

Now, where can I hang her???? Where ever it is I better do it fast. That photo of Dad over the workbench has an extra gleam in the eyes right now!!!

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